Although it may seem to be a primitive concept to many, that pregnant women deserve the same protections that other groups receive regarding employment laws, it is not the case. While there have been some small and local victories, a national victory has yet to be gained.
Despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978’s bar on discrimination toward pregnant employees, many American women are forced out of their jobs or denied accommodations that would allow them to continue working once they become pregnant.
A study conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families found that nearly two-thirds of the women between the ages of 18 and 45 who had given birth between July 2011 and June 2012 reported being employed during their pregnancies, with more than half working full time. And many of them needed some changes to continue working while also maintaining their health: 71 percent needed more frequent breaks, 61 percent needed to change their schedules or take leave time to get healthcare, more than half needed a change in duties such as taking on less heavy lifting or getting more chances to sit, and 40 percent needed another workplace adjustment.
Additionally, the Partnership also studied the effects after women gave birth and found more than one in four who went back to work at the same place said they experienced bias as a result of being perceived as having less “desire, ability or commitment” to doing their jobs. This had real impacts, with nearly 20 percent saying they lost an opportunity for a raise or promotion, 17 percent having their hours reduced against their wishes, and 16 percent having their responsibilities reduced.
Some states have viewed issues such as these as a grave concern and have taken action to better protect these women. States such as Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas have passed laws requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. And although legislation protecting pregnant workers has now been enacted in New York City and in other cities such as Philadelphia, pregnant workers across the nation remain vulnerable to discrimination on a federal level.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, currently stalled in both chambers of Congress, would require every employer in the nation to provide reasonable accommodations to their pregnant employees. These accommodations include allowing employees to sit on a stool rather than stand during work hours, giving them permission to carry water bottles and food on the job, re-assigning pregnant employees temporarily to light-duty work, and refraining from allowing pregnant workers to do heavy lifting.
While not passed, the bill has gained noteworthy support throughout the nation and it is clear that pregnant employees are getting closer to the day that they may feel fully protected. If you or a loved one believes that you have been subject to discrimination as a result of a pregnancy, contact an experienced employment attorney today. A skilled employee’s lawyer will afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected.